World events left many marks and losses in 2014, but Scientific American readers kept calm and carried on for the most part, as your top picks among the stories we published this year reveal. We added in behind-the-scenes information for some of your favorites, listed below:
1. Time Travel Simulation Resolves “Grandfather Paradox”—Our online managing editor Philip Yam developed the idea for this story and assigned it to Lee Billings, who threw himself at it, thereby sealing the deal for hiring him as our newest space and physics editor. It’s a pleasure to have him on board.
2. What It’s Like to Carry Your Nobel Prize through Airport Security—Clara Moskowitz, also a talented addition to our space and physics editing team this year, nabbed this story while attending an event previewing the Giant Magellan Telescope at New York City’s Morgan Library and Museum. Schmidt talked about the telescope and related this anecdote in passing.
3. Earth’s Impending Magnetic Flip—Our former intern Annie Sneed wrote this piece for the news section of the magazine. Annie once stayed up all night with fishermen in Maine to cover a story on eels for us. Anyhow, the idea for this story started when Annie saw the European Space Agency’s new data on Earth’s weakening magnetic field. She and our "Advances" editor Amber Williams discussed the results and realized neither of them knew how a magnetic reversal worked. They figured most readers wouldn’t either and decided to explain it.
4. Gravitational Waves from Big Bang Detected—Clara Moskowitz’s coverage of this announcement is 100 percent accurate, but over time, the finding came under scrutiny; now scientists are uncertain if the signal they observed actually represents gravitational waves or not. The evolution of the thinking on this discovery highlights the nature of the scientific process: trial, error and revision.
5. Fact or Fiction? People Swallow 8 Spiders a Year While They Sleep— When Annie Sneed was a kid, her brothers told her that everyone eats eight spiders a year in their sleep. In a result that likely satisfied her siblings, that statistic haunted her. So as an adult, she had to find out whether it was true and reported this story.
6. Multiverse Controversy Heats Up over Gravitational Waves—Space and physics editor Clara Moskowitz developed the idea for this story when the gravitational-waves finding first came out in the spring. She explains why some physicists think we live in a multiverse, as well as why other physicists loathe the idea. Given that the gravitational-waves finding remains in limbo, the debate is still raging.
7. A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop—Students who used longhand remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material
By Cindi May
8. Suspicious Virus Makes Rare Cross-Kingdom Leap from Plants to Honeybees—A virus has crossed an evolutionary gulf of 1.6 billion years
By Jennifer Frazer
9. 2 Futures Can Explain Time’s Mysterious Past—New theories suggest the big bang was not the beginning, and that we may live in the past of a parallel universe
By Lee Billings
10. An Unusual Cure for Not Enough Sleep—Sleep-deprived people are told they got a good night’s sleep, and then perform as if they did
By Piercarlo Valdesolo
Past articles that were popular in 2014:
1. Strange but True: Drinking Too Much Water Can Kill
June 21, 2007
By Coco Ballantyne
2. Do People Only Use 10 Percent of Their Brains?
February 7, 2008
By Robynne Boyd
3. How Has Stephen Hawking Lived So Long with ALS?
January 7, 2012
By Katherine Harmon
4. Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains
December 4, 2012
By Robert Martone
5. What is the function of the human appendix?
October 21, 1999
6. Why does lactic acid build up in muscles, and why does it cause soreness?
January 23, 2006
7. How long can a person survive without food?
November 8, 2004
April 3, 2006
9. Trouble Sleeping? Go Camping
August 2, 2013
By Joel N. Shurkin and Inside Science News Service
10. How long can humans stay awake?
March 25, 2002
Most popular In-Depth Reports in 2014:
1. Ebola: What You Need to Know
2. Scratch 'n Sniff: A Guide to Cats and Dogs
3. Cosmic Inflation and Big Bang Ripples